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Jul 20, 2007

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Mark Van Steenwyk

I'm curious (and I'm not asking this so that I can woo you into the Emergent fold): why don't you want to be construed as an Emergent advocate?

As an Anabaptist who is almost a Mennonite (the paperwork is in process), I wish Emergent was more authentically Anabaptistic. I also wish there was less of a politically progressive vibe (more political diversity would be nice). Most of the folks I meet in the movement (in my neck of the woods) are more on the mainline edge and not so anabaptistic. I wonder if Emergent folk are different in your neck of the woods.

Denis Hancock

And I was looking forward to seeing a celtic cross tattoo on your leg... (http://purgatorio1.blogspot.com/2005/11/you-might-be-emerging-if.html -- scroll down near the bottom)

Rodger Sellers

I'm curious... what caused this to happen now? I've sensed that all of us are somewhere on the "continuum" and not precisely at the same point others are... but where did this conclusion, etc. come from?

And that's genuine curiosity on my part. Tell us more of where you're coming from.

Grace,

RPS

Michael Kruse

Mark, I don't want to be construed as an "Emergent" adovacte with a capital "E", as in Emergent Village. I will always be in the emerging church conversation but I will find venues other than Emergent events to have that dialog.

As to Anabaptism, I have had Mennonite friends across the years and still do. There are aspects I admire. The general difference I have is that (IMO) Anabaptism overemphasizes the separation between two kingdoms. The strategy is to "come out of the world" and call others to come out with you. I take a more Reformed perspective of being sent "into the world" seeking its transformation, like yeast in the dough. Anabaptism has some positive qualities but I'm just not interested in spending two days to listen to others talk about it. :) I'm more interested in how to be effectively sent into the world.

I earned a graduate degree in sociology studying social change and demography at the graduate level in the early 1980s. Much of the work dealt with developing nations. Some of my professors were Marxists and more than half the classmates were from developing nations. I worked at our local United Way as a research analyst studying a dozen neighborhood serving organizations in Kansas City, MO's, urban core. That got me interested in business and economics. I earned a MBA in economic development at Eastern Universtiy and had Tony Campolo and Ron Sider for professors. I served on a the board of an organization with Sider for a few years in the early 1990s. I have great respect for him. I was reading Jim Wallis, "Sojourners," "The Other Side," John Howard Yoder, Arthur Gish, E. F. Schumacher and Tom Sine in college in the late 1970s! I have departed from much of the analytical lens that is common to these perspectives and going back for more discussion of them is a move backward to me. I find it more than a little ironic that social justice in "Emergent" is what people I knew were doing thirty years ago. :)

My local situation is indeed much different than at these larger gatherings. I have much more insightful and interesting discussions here than I find at these larger events. That is why I have soured on it.

Michael W. Kruse

Rodger, my response to Mark may clarify some. This was not an overnight revelation. This has been building for months. This week has been a busy week. It pushed me to assess my use of time. When I really reflected on it I concluded that Emergent events are too narrow in their inclusion of ideas for my interests. I’m simply not interested in challenging that and I will simply go elsewhere for conversation.

BTW, I noticed your blog posts had stopped and I hadn’t heard much. I hope you have been okay!

Michael W. Kruse

"And I was looking forward to seeing a celtic cross tattoo on your leg"

What makes you think I don't have one? :)

Benjamin P. Glaser

Excellent Post Michael. There is a considerable backlash currently happening here in Pittsburgh towards the growing political activism of the "emergent conversation". Whether it is the mere association with openly anti-Christian groups or the inclusion of non-trinitarian belief sets there is an interesting movement brewing.

Nate Custer

Mike,

I am sorry to hear this change, if only because I was looking forward to reconnecting in person at some future time and I figured a future EV event might be place to do it. I guess I will just have to watch this blog to look for some other event or place when we can meet up again in person.

Two question, have you participated in any of the EV's theology/philosophy settings. As a philosophy nut, I was sad to miss out on the Caputo exchange, but I think where the EV may be different then 70s or 80s liberal evangelicalism is in their successful reading of the real pomo philosophers.

Number two, there seems to be an overlap of people you meet at any of these events (but for me EV events/blogs in particular) folks who are doing stuff and folks who like to read/talk about it. If the center of the discussions is shared books you are reading, it sounds like the conversations are being driven more by readers then by folks doing stuff. Or as an engineer might say, the signal to noise ratio is too low.

Glad to hear your local cohort is still a good place to engage, perhaps you folks should host an event that includes Other voices.

Rodger Sellers

Thanks for the additional info.

As to my blog... too busy... something had to give... that was the choice! (Kind of hate it but only so many hours in a day! :)

RPS

Michael Kruse

Thanks Ben.

Nate, we will cross paths some day and I too look forward to that. If there is an event featuring a particular speaker or devoted to a particular topic I might show but I think I'm done with these open forum events.

Rodger, I'm glad to hear you're okay. I hope the "busy" is a good busy...as in things are going well at the Portico.

David

Michael - Ouch! I hate it that you feel the EV group is too small for you to benefit from the conversation. I don't know enough about the Anabaptists to comment on that aspect, but I can assure you that not all of us who are part of EV share a "progressive" ideology. In fact, some of us are old school conservatives.

But the emerging (little "e") church is much bigger, in all ways, than Emergent Village. And you are doing so much to spread the word through your thoughtful, prolific blog. Thank you, friend.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks, David for the kind remarks about the blog. Here is another reflection I would add that might give some perspective.

I realize that for a great many folks at these large EV events are coming from conservative Evangelical backgrounds. Progressive spins on social justice issues are a new world to them and it taps into passions they have that have been denied expression. Thus, there is a lot of energy behind this stuff.

I'm a theologically conservative Christian in a mainline denomination where vast swaths of the hierarchy and seminaries are not. (I use term "theologically conservative" loosely because in a great many Evangelical denominations and settings I would be to liberal.) Social Justice is virtually the religion of many and progressive politics is the sacrament. General Assembly meetings are filled with business that deal with eco-justice, boycotting companies because of alleged social injustice, opposing free-trade agreements, supporting fair trade initiatives, condemning US imperialism, sustainable growth, sanctuary movements, etc., etc., etc. This stuff permeates national conferences held by the denomination.

I know that if I go to these events I will find other people like me. But I’m also aware that a narrow range of theological perspectives and applications is what is going to be on the agenda for the broader discussion. I’m a bystander and an outsider talking with other outsiders. That is precisely how I feel at these national big EV get togethers!

A friend of mine recently made an insightful observation. He said that the emerging church has made an enormously helpful contribution toward recovering sound missiology but it is married to an ill conceived Christian anthropology. That pretty much nails it for me to.

I think the attraction of many mainline types is that they gravitate to the progressive social justice agenda of EV related events and they see the missiological focus as being the missing piece from their lethargic mainline denominations (Presby, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, etc.). In short, EV events feel very much like mainline meetings without the institutional trappings. It feels like anything but new and emerging.

Mike Clawson
Emergent (capital "E")/Emergent Village = An organization with a board and staff that conducts events.

Ironically though, none of the organizers of this gathering were part of the Emergent Village board or staff (though of course the EV staff actually only consists of one very part-time coordinator). We're just a bunch of friends who wanted to do a conference together and invited some of the EV guys to come and participate.

Also, AFAIK none of us are anabaptists, though we're not opposed to learning from them. And I don't even know if all of the seven of us that planned the conference would call ourselves "politically progressive", though I do confess that I'm not afraid of that owning that label personally.

Anyhow, we're sorry you didn't come. My wife was looking forward to meeting you in real life.

Shalom,
-Mike

Michael W. Kruse

Hi Mike. I’ve helped put on some events in the past and I know what hard work it is. It looks to me like you guys put together a top rate meeting. So first, congratulations on pulling the thing off.

The website has EV first up on its list of “Brought to you By” and I figured “Emergent” in the name of the gathering was not without permission. That is what I’m reacting to. My attraction to the emerging church, going back to my connections with Jacob’s Well in 1998, has been the missional focus. But when I come to these larger gatherings I get a different feel.

I used the word Anabaptist. In as sense, I view Anabaptists as the Protestant version of Monasticism. Central to Anabaptism is a sense of separatism from larger culture in order to create more pure communities. Missional monasticism is an irreconcilable oxymoron for me. I understand monasticism to have emerged because of a false duality that emerged in the church between the sacred and the secular. I think there was only one session on this specifically lead by Karen (who I have met and really appreciate) but I see shades of it in other session descriptions. I’m not saying anyone leading the event is Anabaptist nor am objecting to being in dialog with Anabaptists/Monastics. I’m saying pursing this stuff holds no interest for me.

The sessions that did have some appeal to me concerning missional issues like local and global poverty we are lead by people connected with progressive groups like Bread for the World, Faith in Place, Jubilee USA, and Social Redemption Network. Been there, done that, ad nauseam. I’m in a Mainline denomination where this is stuff is ubiquitous. I’ve been deeply connected with the Evangelical Left in the past. I live in a neighborhood that votes 90% Democrat. Again, I’ve got not problem being in dialog with progressives but interested in a progressive convention. :)

I want you to understand that I’m not angry. I just see very little overlap between the events agenda and my interests. This has now been the case on multiple occasions with things connected to EV. And what I have now awakened to is that the conversations I have at the local level are exceedingly different from those that happen at these large events. I just don’t see enough points of intersection to consider myself a part of that discussion.

The only thing that made me really consider taking the time for this trip anyway was some of the people I might meet. You and Julie were two that I would love to have connected with. I have enjoyed meeting you at the Jesus Creed. But in the end, I just I don’t think there are enough points of intersection in perspectives for my presence to be fruitful at Emergent related events.

Thanks for your kind note. My someday our paths will cross. I hope so and I’ll look forward to it.

Peace!

grace

Michael,
I also find myself on the conservative end of the emerging conversation, both politically and theologically, although I have become more liberal than I ever imagined being.

I would really enjoy hearing your distinction of missional issues in comparison to social justice issues and the perspectives of Yoder, Sider, and others that you mention having departed from.

Michael W. Kruse

Grace, I’m not sure I can answer that question succinctly. Here are a few things.

Monasticism developed within the Church as a response to some people feeling they were called into special vocations of piety and service. The church incorporated these folks into the larger ministry of the church by creating monastic orders. This call was seen as an exceptional call and different from the call of the great majority of Christians to be the church in the world. Clergy and monastic orders were given elevated status over the laity throughout much of church history but especially in recent years there has been and emphasis to see the ministry of the laity as the central work of Christians with priests tending to the sacraments and special orders being devoted to particular missions. Now, I don’t think there is a “clergy and laity” but I’m willing to allow that God may call some people to a monastic like life style (though I’m deeply suspicious that much of this monastic mindset is a consequence of a sacred vs. secular split that is not in the Word). The central point is that “the people of God at work in the world” has been seen as central mission of the Church and these other institutions exist in support of that.

I see much of Anabaptist theology as a Protestant version of Monasticism. They separate from the world in order to maintain a higher level of piety. There is a profound “two-kingdom” mentality. We are called out of the worldly kingdom (the empire), which is beyond redemption and reform, to live as a separate people giving witness of the kingdom that will come and replace the worldly kingdom. There is a commitment, like monasticism, to “simple living” and avoiding the distractions of the marketplace so one can live purely exhibiting the kingdom of God. They live at the edge of the Empire or outside the Empire in order to be a witness to the Empire.

Now, if some have a call to take this approach like the monastic folks, then I will not oppose them. However, what we have happening is folks saying the monastic/Anabaptist separatism is the call of every Christian. It is normative. It is like the monks telling everyone that you are sinners (or at least not as holy as us) unless you live in a monastery. It deprecates the call that the great majority who have the call to be at work in the world.

Sider, Yoder and others may not be quite as rigid as I’m describing but we see the Anabaptist thinking heavily reflected in the sustainable growth fallacy. There are strong elements of the zero-sum game fallacy at work, the idea that my gain is at someone else’s loss and visa versa. Therefore, we must live simply to avoid taking other’s resources. Ethicist Pete Singer suggests that every bit of consumption we take above our subsistence is homicide because we are depriving others of necessities. Sider and Yoder do not make such radical claims but there is a definite implication that living beyond some (impossible to define) level of basic comfort is sinful. Its bad economics and bad theology.

What I find especially ironic is that many of those coming from this Anabaptist mindset in EV circles, whether they are Anabaptist or not, then turn to the coercive power of the state to rectify every perceived imbalance! Progressive politics relies heavily on the idea of state intervention to solve problems to the point that it virtually use “society” and “government” almost as synonymous terms. Government is one institution of society but so are family, church, neighborhood, and voluntary associations. Why is their default solution “Empire” intervention into the economy and people’s lives when they have decided to live at the “edge of the Empire” precisely because the Empire is irreparably corrupt and must be kept separate?

At its base, a friend of mine said that much of the emerging church has contributed much to missiology and but has been abysmal in Christian Anthropology. That is getting close to my critique.

If you are interested you might want to listen 1.5 hour debate I linked between Ron Sider and Father Robert Sirico of the Action Institute. I won’t unequivocally endorse what Sirico has to say but he captures the spirit of what I believe to be the truth concerning economic issues. The link is at my post:

Ronald Sider and Robert Sirico Debate Wealth and Poverty

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